CLEVELAND | The majority of Americans who tuned into TNT’s broadcast of the game between the Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas Day did so expecting to witness the heroics of MVP candidate LeBron James.
But his teammate Mo Williams stole the show. The Cavaliers guard provided clutch plays and scored a team-high 24 points to lift his team to a 93-89 comeback victory at Quicken Loans Arena and deal the Wizards another disappointing loss.
The Wizards led 89-82 late in the fourth quarter, but James - who unveiled his new Nike “Chalk” shoe - got to the foul line on a missed 3-pointer and made all three attempts. Then Williams drilled a 3-pointer to slice the deficit to 89-88 with 1:02 left.
Cleveland forward Anderson Varejao got to the line after getting fouled on a rebound attempt in which he appeared to push off with 26.6 seconds left, but Wizards forward Antawn Jamison got whistled for the infraction - his sixth of the game. Varejao made both shots to give his team a 90-89 lead.
On the next possession, Caron Butler was called for a charge, which forced Washington to foul Williams with 7.8 seconds left. He made both shots to extend his team’s lead to 92-89.
Washington called a timeout, Mike James rushed a 3-pointer that glanced off the rim and the Wizards fell to 4-23 with their eighth straight loss.
“I thought we played well throughout the game,” coach Ed Tapscott said. “I thought our guys fought real hard and had good confidence. That’s it. We played well. Should’ve had the win. But there were a couple of poor executions on our part and a couple of other poor executions out there, too.”
Jamison scored a game-high 28 points and had six rebounds, but Mike James’ 26 points - most of which came late in the game - kept the Wizards in the game.
Mike James - who made his third start with the Wizards since the team acquired him from New Orleans in a trade three weeks ago - scored 22 points in the second half.
With Washington down 65-63 and 3:10 left in the third, Mike James went to work, first with a 3-pointer off an assist from Butler, then with a steal and a breakaway layup and a 3-pointer that put Washington in front 71-65 with 44.9 seconds left in the third. Cavaliers swingman Wally Szczerbiak nailed a 3 to cut the lead to three heading into the fourth quarter.
Mike James’ play proved contagious as Antawn Jamison opened the fourth quarter with a jump shot, and backup guard Nick Young followed with a 3-pointer that increased the lead to 76-68.
Washington went 3 1/2 minutes without scoring, and Cleveland cut the deficit to a point on a foul shot from center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. But Mike James struck again with another 3-pointer for Washington with a little less than seven minutes to play.
LeBron James tied the game and then gave his team a brief lead with a layup followed by a foul shot, but Mike James hit a pull-up jumper to put Washington up 81-80 with 3:55 on the clock. LeBron James missed a 3-pointer on the other end, and Mike James came back with another jumper to extend the advantage to 83-80. Jamison added a three-point play to increase the cushion to 86-80, and the margin reached seven points before the Wizards lost for the 13th time this season after holding a fourth-quarter lead.
“It’s tough because we had a chance to win. We’re up six with two minutes to go, and calls didn’t go our way,” Mike James said. “There was a tough call against [Jamison] that didn’t go his way. There was a tough call on Caron. And it’s just tough because when you’re down you almost have to play a perfect game. You can’t leave the game in the referees’ hands, because the decision is always going to roll with the team that’s got the momentum.”
The Wizards limited LeBron James to 18 points - nine below his average - but Cleveland overcame its star’s off night to improve to 25-4 and keep its undefeated home mark (15-0) intact.
Delonte West had 18 points, and Varejao scored 13 off the bench for Cleveland.